“Look Dad, you’re flying!”
Those wonderful words spoken by my three-year-old son, Christian, while I struggled to regain my balance, inspired the theme of my speaking business: “Who needs legs, when you have wings?”
Flights of fancy, I believe, are as important as real flight. Of course, I will never really fly. That’s impossible. Or is it?
One beautiful morning in the spring of 2003, I was driving near a wondrous mountain in Utah. When winds hit this ridge, huge updrafts are produced that support swooping, climbing and diving hang-gliders. On a good day, over a dozen kite-like objects move in and out in an electric pattern.
Looking closely, I see the people suspended from the hang-gliders. I can’t see their expressions, but can imagine their look of freedom.
I pull over and watch, fascinated, as two people, connected in tandem, sail on the wind suspended beneath a large purple and red striped wing.
I decide this is it! I can do this!
The owners tell me they have taken paraplegics up and assure me there is no reason why a quadriplegic couldn’t enjoy the same experience. They have to make additional arrangements to accommodate my disability, and set a date for the following week. Why wait? What happens when a procrastinator has a great idea? Nothing!
Action and procrastination cannot exist in the same space. If I’m going to get something done, I better just do it! I am finally going to fly – really fly!
They put me through a one-and-a-half hour training course, where I am shown how to twist, turn and shift my weight to catch the draft, as one catches a wave in the surf. They tell me the most important thing is to let go and have fun. This good instruction does me no good, as there is no way I can do the things they advise, except the “fun” part. That I can do!
Three men strap me into something resembling a sleeping bag (I prefer to call it a sleeping bag rather than a body bag!) I am strapped to the flight instructor’s body; his name is Chris. I think to myself, how ironic. Chris (my son) inspires me to fly, Chris (Superman) convinced me it was possible, and Chris (the instructor) gets the job done!
Pushing off the edge, we are in a free fall. Then, as the speed of our fall enhances the power of the wind beneath our wings, lift takes over and in one beautiful heart grabbing moment, we swoop into a two hundred and fifty-foot climb.
Isn’t it interesting how the fear of falling often precedes the thrill of soaring? I began to look at things from a different perspective. Even though I lost much because of my accident, maybe I’ve gained much more than I’ve lost. I begin to understand on a deeper level how we can do the seemingly impossible, if we are willing to do it differently. After all, I did fly!
We can get through the difficult, sad, even dangerous frustrations of life, if we just get above it for even a minute or two and see the big picture.
Whether on foot, on wheels, or on wings, we will eventually make it through just fine.
Mark Twain said it best:
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not the absence of fear.”